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Discipline Education

The Lowest Stakes Imaginable

My kids were playing hide and seek at the park with another boy. A few rounds had gone by, and it was my youngest son’s turn to be “it.”

He counted and found the other boy fast.

But he had some trouble finding his older sister.

After a few minutes, the boy tempted him.

“I know where she is. Want me to show you?”

My son (6 years old) looked at the boy in a confusion. “No, that’s not how the game works.” And then he went on to find his sister on his own.

This temptation had the lowest stakes imaginable: the integrity of a casual game of hide and seek. And if my son had given in, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. He would just be accepting some help from an older boy.

But I was proud of his recognition that it would violate some sense of rightness. He knew that it would break some prior agreement.

On the way back to the car, I told him he had made the right choice and that I was proud of him. Refusing to cheat might seem small, but it will pay dividends in the future.

And this is what childhood is all about. Learning to make the right decisions when the stakes are small, the risks are minimal, and the consequences minor.

We train them to be faithful in the small things so they will eventually be faithful in the large things.

Because even with the smallest stakes, integrity is being built. Piece by piece.

And that’s the only way to build anything of value.